American citizen Jeffrey Fowle was freed by North Korea on Tuesday, after having been arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a sailor's club in the city of Chongjin. While Fowle is to be flown home to his family in Ohio, the White House has urged the two other American citizens held by North Korea to be released as well.
"While this is a positive decision ... we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Fowle, a 56-year-old street repair worker from Miamisburg, Ohio, was accused by the North Korean government of religious proselytizing, which is considered a serious offense in the Pacific nation. more >>
A group working to protect Christians from blasphemy laws has said that international pressure on Pakistan is needed to overturn the death penalty handed to Christian mother of five Asia Bibi. Christian leaders in Pakistan have vowed to continue appealing the case and fighting for the mother's life.
"We continue to hope because, as Christians, our faith nourishes hope. We continue to pray for Asia Bibi and for her release, so that the Lord protects and comforts her. But there are many elements that are not conducive to optimism," said Haroon Barkat, director of the Masihi Foundation, in an interview with Fides News Agency on Tuesday.
Barkat, whose group works in Pakistan to protect Christians falsely accused of blasphemy, added that "international pressures and mobilization can be useful" in influencing the case. He said that above all, "the political will of the government and of the highest authorities in Pakistan is needed" to put an end to the many false blasphemy cases where Christians in Pakistan are persecuted. more >>
The U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide has called on Pakistan's Supreme Court to be prompt in hearing the appeal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five children whose death sentence for "blasphemy" was upheld by the Lahore High Court this week.
CSW also called for proper security for Bibi, whose appeal was rejected by the Lahore High Court Thursday.
The Christian mother has "endured grueling conditions in nearly four years of detention on death row, much of it spent in solitary confinement," CSW said in a statement. "Her health has suffered and she has had severe restrictions on visitors." more >>
The death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five children, was upheld by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan on Thursday. Bibi has been convicted of blasphemy for drinking from the same bowl of water as Muslims and making derogatory comments about the prophet Muhammad.
"The case against Asia Bibi is a great example of how Christians and other religious minorities are abused in Pakistan by fundamentalists wielding the controversial blasphemy laws. The blasphemy laws were originally written to protect against religious intolerance in Pakistan, but the law has warped into a tool used by extremists and others to settle personal scores and persecute Pakistan's vulnerable religious minorities," said International Christian Concern's Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark.
"Sadly, the vast majority of blasphemy accusations brought against Christians and others are false. Unfortunately, pressure from Islamic radical groups and general discrimination against Christians in Pakistan has transformed trial courts and now appeals courts into little more than rubber stamps for blasphemy accusations brought against Christians, regardless of the evidence brought to bear in the case." more >>
The leader of the Anglican Church of Hong Kong has issued a statement calling for "dialogue" between pro-democracy protestors and government officials.
Archbishop Paul Kwong issued the statement Tuesday where he said that he was "saddened and distressed by the increasing social conflict."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly reappeared in public photos published by North Korean state media in an attempt to halt rumors regarding his whereabouts. Kim, who hadn't been seen in over a month and missed several important public dates, appeared to be walking with the aid of a cane in the new images.
Kim was pictured offering field guidance to a newly built residential district, and visiting the Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy of Sciences, CNN said based on state media reports. The photos show the 31-year-old leader walking with a cane, smiling and surrounded by government officials.
The photos portray Kim's first public appearance since Sept. 3, when he was last seen attending a concert with his wife. more >>